With bacon-wrapped pork tenderloins and Babe’s Blossom sauce, Pine Bluff’s Colonial Steak House has earned Division of Arkansas Heritage blue plaque status.
The longtime restaurant at 111 W. Eighth Ave. was recently inducted into the division’s Arkansas Food Hall of Fame. Co-owner Allison Hall accepted the restaurant award Thursday afternoon.
Hall, 42, started at Colonial 17 years ago as a server, a role she still plays even though she shares ownership with Scott Mouser.
Attention to detail and consistency, Hall said, is why she believes Colonial has earned a place in restaurant immortality.
“We’ve found what works and it sticks,” she said. “We are strong believers in tradition.”
Hall is a second-generation Colonial employee, who started at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Beech Street in August 1974. It moved to its current address in 1987 and Hall’s mother, Dana Gateley, owned it for 25 years. Hall’s son, Cole Waller, 21, is now on his second stint with the Colonial team.
“I started working here when I was 13 or 14. I worked until I was about 18; I left the state and I’ve been back for about two years,” Waller said. “My grandmother worked here, and I would sit and work at the desk and watch everything.”
Colonial employs 10 to 12 people, depending on the time of year, Hall said. Extra hands are usually called in November and December to help organize Christmas parties.
Linda “Babe” Scarver, 69, has worked at the restaurant for 46 years and agrees with Hall that there is a family atmosphere.
“We all get along like family,” Scarver said. “I love everyone, and I think they love me too.”
Hall asserted, adding, “We want her here for many, many years.”
When asked how one stayed at the same workplace for nearly five decades, Scarver told the story of being a single mother of five who had to be home to drop the kids off at school and “do everything a mother is supposed to do”. Scarver credited Mouser with giving him the nickname.
“I just got here and couldn’t leave,” Scarver said. “I’m still here.”
THE BEST TASTES
Scarver does “everything” in the kitchen, Hall said, from cooking to assembling plates for presentation to making sauces.
“She’s the backbone of the kitchen,” Hall said.
One of Scarver’s most talked about creations is the Blossom Sauce, the recipe for which she refused to reveal except for one ingredient – “lots of love put into it”.
Waller called it a “secret sauce”, but Hall clarified it as an apricot and brandy sauce.
“Really, I couldn’t tell you how much of what Babe puts in. That’s Babe’s thing. She’s been doing it all these years. I don’t think any of us can replicate that. “
Ask Waller for his favorite dish and he’ll reveal bacon-wrapped pork tenderloins.
“Those are, by far, my favorites,” he said. “Those have always been my favorite. Either that or the grilled chicken.”
Scarver described his favorite dish in one word: “everything.”
HALL OF FAME STATUS
Arkansas Heritage is a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. The division held its Food Hall of Fame ceremony on Feb. 7 at the Ron Robinson Theater at the Central Arkansas Library System in Little Rock, but Hall was unable to attend at the time, according to a division spokesperson.
The Food Hall of Fame started in 2016.
Dairy King in Portia, County Lawrence, and Neal’s Cafe in Springdale were also inducted restaurants. The Duck Gumbo Cookoff World Championship in Arkansas County was inducted as a food-themed event, and La Casa de Mi Abuelita in Redfield won the People’s Choice award.
Chicken was named food of the year.
The Colonial Steakhouse is open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.